Written by: Cree Cultural Interpretive Centre

Our ancestors depended on the land not only for food and shelter, but also for medicines.  A few of these traditional cures are still remembered and used today.  Often, the active ingredients of these remedies are the basis of modern medicine.

Cedar:  Cedar was used to make a poultice that was used for treating chest colds and bronchitis

Lady’s Slipper:  The roots can be steeped in hot water to make a strong tea that cures headaches, sleeplessness and eases labour pains.

Cattail:  A tea made from roots helps bladder infections and kidney problems.  The roots can be pounded into a pulp and applied to burns to prevent infections.

Willow:  The bark can be used to make a tea which reduces fever, pain and swelling.  Willow bark contains salicylic acid, a chemical similar to one found in aspirin.

Horsetail:  The stems can be crushed and made into a tea which can help kidney problems.

Spruce:  The steam from a tea made from the needles can be inhaled to help clear the nasal passages for cold sufferers.  The gum was used to close cuts and stop bleeding.

Red willow (RedOsier):  The bark can be used as a medicine to relieve toothaches.

There are some remedies that are taken from animals, for instance goose fat can be used to sooth burns, or beaver castor can be used to draw out infection.  Goose grease was also used to help bring back the appetite of a person that has been sick for a while.  Bear grease was used to heal sores, and was also used on ceremonial occasions.

Moss was used for baby’s diapers, which contained a natural antiseptic and was very absorbent.  They did not have the problem of a diaper rash, and these moss diapers were completely biodegradable.  This practices has been largely discontinued since the arrival of cloth and disposable diapers, although a few mothers still use moss diapers when out in the bush.

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